When Atlanta-based Cycologist Caroline Reed asked herself a few years ago what she would do if time and money weren’t a factor, the answer was obvious: be a fitness instructor. In our third Spring into Change Q+A, Caroline shares some very personal struggles, as well as how these obstacles led her to a renewed strength and belief in herself.
Cyc Fitness: Despite your current dedication to healthy living, rumor has it that you were once a party girl! When did you make a change, and what are some tips you can share with others who want to make positive changes in their lives?
Caroline Reed: One of the biggest misconceptions that I had about people who were fit or ate really well was that it mean adopting a lifestyle devoid of fun. I like to think I’ve proven myself wrong by seeking out healthy, high-energy activities that I genuinely enjoy. Not everyone’s made to be a runner, and for that matter, a lot of runners aren’t made to be cyclists, or zumba fanatics. You’ve really got to try all kinds of classes, and who knows, you may be surprised about what becomes your go-to workout! I also learned that healthy eating doesn’t have to be torturous. If you do it right, it’s actually delicious. Once I changed my diet to include wholesome and nutritious ingredients, everything from my sleep to my energy levels improved! But don’t get me wrong, I’m also a wholehearted advocate for two cheat meals a week. I love a few guilty pleasures (chili cheese fries, burgers and a cold beer, anyone?)!
CF: You said your first real workout, a long run, was a rough experience. What motivated you to keep pursuing fitness?
CR: Something I like to tell my riders is “change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing”. At that time, I was working through a few obstacles. I was an overwhelmed college student with no real direction or solid support system. I didn’t set out on that first jog with any big goals, I just wanted to clear my head. I’ll never forget how difficult it was; the entire time I thought I was going to pass out from heat stroke and with every step I felt my excess body weight bouncing up and down! But I also remember getting home and feeling really proud of myself just for finishing. So I stuck with it and before I knew it I was seeing results, both physically and mentally. I guess I’d found my groove.
CF: Being confident about your body is so important, but it’s easy to feel pressure to achieve an idealized ‘perfect figure’. For you, you’ve said that this became a fixation which eventually spiraled into an eating disorder. What changes did you have to make to recover, and to ultimately learn how to love yourself again?
CR: This is such a sensitive topic for me, one that I debated sharing publicly. It’s hard to pinpoint all of the things I had to work on to overcome my disorder. The first thing that propelled me to change was the realization that someday I would have a family, and I started thinking about how my behaviors–both good and bad–would affect them. Through therapy, self-help books and a ton of prayer, I eventually got to a place where I was mentally strong enough to refuse to compare myself to others. Now I firmly believe in my own intrinsic value, and I know that I really do feel my best, mentally, when I’m dancing, teaching classes at Cyc and eating well!
CF: Tell us more about your work at Cyc, and what inspires you.
CR: Our studio has only been open for a couple of months, but we’ve already cultivated so much trust among our community of Cycologists and riders. It’s really rewarding to check in with my regular riders and meet new riders every week. I strive to take our riders far beyond what they think they’re capable of achieving, even if at the time they doubt themselves (and me!). Honestly, the sense of accomplishment they exude after class is as validating for me as it is them.
CF: What does ‘Spring Into Change’ mean to you?
CR: Spring Into Change has given us all an opportunity to stop looking around and to start looking within, for what it is that’s going to propel them to a better place. Every day contains a series of choices to create positive change. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to not be afraid of change, it’s leading you to a new beginning!
-Compiled by Leslie Steinberg